God Was Purposeful in Our Pain

Personal Testimony of Natalie Faith Johnson

natalie-pic-1Growing up, I sang many songs that assured me it was “so sweet to trust in Jesus” and “God can make a way when there seems to be no way.” My favorite movie as a kid was Sister Act 2 (don’t judge!) and I would sing along with Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount as they sang “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” I sounded exactly like them!

The lyrics of all these songs are so beautiful and TRUE…but sometimes they are hard to sing. What if you’re not happy and things don’t feel so sweet? What if you don’t feel free but instead are trapped in a life you never saw for yourself? What if you know God is watching but you don’t feel Him actively working?

Deciding to be a Christian is life changing. However, as you the reader knows, it doesn’t spare you from all the junk that can happen. I love the verse:

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

The word rampart means “a protective barrier.” God is faithful and even though life can throw some pretty crazy stuff our way, we are sheltered under His wings and can make it through any storm!

I’m about to tell you a story about becoming a mother that has the best ending. Just you wait! However, I do want to preface the story by saying that for years I thought over and over again that I was in the lowest valley I’d ever walk through…but then it would get lower. I thought circumstances would get better but then they got worse. Has that ever happened to you? I’ve heard ‘bad things come in threes’ but sometimes it seems like bad things come by the dozen!

Martin Luther once said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” His quote was pertaining to temptation and our thought life. There will always be storms that come, dark valleys we walk through, and squawking birds over our heads. We were never promised that this world would be fun or easy. However, we can find shelter within our Refuge (the Lord!), we can walk beside Him through the valley (He promises that!), and we can take every thought captive in Jesus’ name!

When I was younger my parents got divorced. It was painful, messy, and didn’t end well. My dad, who was a pastor and charismatic man lived a double life by having multiple affairs, abusive behavior, and strong mental health issues. My mom wrote a book about her healing process called “Secrets in the Sanctuary*.” Their marriage never recovered, and in fact, my dad went on to have even stronger issues over the years and he sadly passed away when I was 19 years old.

What’s bizarre, is that growing up I knew very little of my dad’s unhealthy behavior. My dad was extremely intentional when he saw my sister and me. He took us on the best vacations, had thought provoking conversations, and challenged us to be strong in our faith. I can look back on my parents’ divorce and grieve over the things that were destroyed and at the same time be thankful for the years I had with my dad and the good seeds he planted in my life. We don’t have to be 100% happy with how things turn out. We can have joy and pain at the same time. Let me repeat that…joy and pain can coexist at the same time. It’s what makes us strong and makes us long for Heaven.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

I really hoped that growing through my dad’s death and the divorce of my parents would be my full testimony. I wish hard times were like lightening striking once, but like we all know, we need God every hour to help us through this life!

natalie in hospitalLike I said earlier, sometimes bad things come by the dozen. My parents’ marriage began to turn toward divorce when I was 4 years old. In the thick of their struggles, I was having some health issues, and through multiple doctors’ visits, led to the unexpected. I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in my pelvis. It was wrapped around my organs and blocked my body from functioning like it should. Thankfully, through two years of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and a great team of doctors, I was healed at 6 years old from cancer!  My mom, sister, and I started a new life with the help of our family, church, and the Lord’s provision.

The doctors warned us that there would be limits of how my body would function as I grew up, but every single limit they gave was surpassed and overcome!

God was faithful over the years and eventually I met and married Adam when I was 20. We started a fun life together and moved to Spring Hill, KS in 2009.

Confident of what the Lord had done in my body, I became pregnant at 24, and I knew this was another victory of His healing touch. Adam and I were so excited to share with everyone about our baby! I was getting ready to graduate dental hygiene school and Adam was established in his job as a Worship and Creative Arts Pastor. We were thrilled to start the next chapter of our lives.

Unfortunately, I miscarried our first baby at 9 weeks and a year later I miscarried another baby at 14 weeks. Both pregnancies started off great but because of the radiation treatment to my pelvis during my childhood cancer, my body would not stretch enough to make room for a growing baby. We would have tried to keep getting pregnant but both miscarriages revealed that my body was unable to clot blood normally and I would be hospitalized for days to stop the bleeding. I was told the next pregnancy would end in a hysterectomy.

I never kept any of our journey to be parents or the grief that I felt a secret. My poor mother, sister, and best friends heard it all! One day, Katie, my closest friend, graciously offered to try surrogacy, since carrying the baby was our main battle. With prayer and research, we decided to go for it!

“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).

The first surrogacy attempt failed, and we had depleted all our money. With encouragement from our friends and family, surrogacy fundraisers were held, giving us another opportunity to try again. By this time everyone in our circle and Katie’s knew about our journey. It failed again.

I started going to counseling. The idea of carrying a child myself was gone, and now the idea of having a biological child was also gone. My heart was not ready for any other option. Grief was a daily friend.

But God can make a way when there seems to be no way. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. A family at our church that we didn’t really know heard our story and invited us to a birthday party they were having for one-year-old twins, a brother and sister. The twins had come into their lives through foster care. Our new friends hoped we could be the twins’ future parents.

In one fell swoop, these babies wiped out every stigma I had toward fostering. It was easy to connect with them. God was changing my heart on how I could be a mom.

We decided to get our foster care license and after taking classes the twins became a part of our lives. But then several months later a family member stepped in to be their guardian and they left our home.

I couldn’t take anymore loss. The idea of never mothering, of never feeling this way again was sounding like the best idea…but God had a different idea in mind.

Aren’t you thankful that God is always working behind the scenes and knows the desires of our hearts?

  • In 2013, when I miscarried my first baby, Jaedyn Faith Johnson was born.
  • In 2014, when I miscarried my second baby, Neila Kate Johnson was born.
  • Because of our surrogacy fundraising event, a couple who had attended mentioned our names when a relative of theirs was looking for adoptive parents for Jaedyn and Neila.
  • Katie, our dear friend, and surrogate was the connecting person to that couple and called to ask if we’d be willing to meet the girls.
  • We met our daughters on Adam’s 31st birthday. God was about to show us the most incredible gifts he had ever made.
  • Years before we met the girls, we got our foster care license. We needed this license to be candidates to adopt them.
  • There were 12 couples who wanted to adopt the girls. We were the only ones out of state and yet we were picked as one of the final two couples.
  • When the board (Best Interest Staffing) met and interviewed us and the other couple, the majority of the board was going to vote for the older couple with a child. One woman on the board, however, swayed the whole vote toward us when she said that when we spoke, she could feel God’s presence and assurance that we were supposed to be the girls’ parents.

judge And in December of 2018, we became the overjoyed, emotional, grateful parents of two of the coolest girls we have ever known. Every detail of who they are, from their personalities, their interests, and even their eye color meshes with our family as a beautiful reminder that God was working. God was purposeful in our pain and nothing was wasted. He redeems and restores what we think is beyond his control. God is faithful!

Johnson family
The Johnson Family. Neila, Natalie, Adam, Jaedyn

“He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 113:9).

Natalie and Mom*Book written by Natalie’s mom, Julie E. Davenport, “Secrets in the Sanctuary” – https://julieedavenport.com/